Honeycomb Run

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At 11:47 PM, after watching two episodes of “The Wire: Season 4,” it hit me like a ton of bricks: an intense craving for Honeycomb cereal. To put this into perspective, I haven’t consumed Honeycomb in years. I haven’t consumed cereal in years. What brought this on? Why was I out my door, shuffling along the street like Bubs and his shopping cart, needing a Honeycomb fix?

I blame a college student who interviewed me a few weeks ago. She asked what food I used to snack on in college and before I had a chance to think, my mouth answered for me: “Honeycomb!” Then my brain flew into action, conjuring memories of late night study sessions, early morning breakfast sessions, and mid-afternoon snack sessions involving me and a box of Honeycomb. There wouldn’t be a bowl: I’d just tear that yellow cardboard open, dip my hand in and crunch my way through half a box. Honeycomb made me the man I am today.

I have, of course, read my Michael Pollan; I now know I’m subsidizing a very corrupt corn industry with the $4 it cost me for that box. And yes, I am filling my body with nutritionless muck. But we don’t choose our vices, and Honeycomb is a vice. Even Craig was disgusted: “You’re eating a bowl of sugary cereal at midnight?” Then he glanced down at my belly. I think that qualifies as domestic abuse, don’t you?

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Its comforting in a way that defies taste or rational thought. It made me think of another David Simon show, the one that premiered last night: “Generation Kill.” The food references in that show–Skittles, Subway, Pizza Hut–are all of the crassest, most commercial variety. And yet for a troop stationed in Iraq, I imagine there’s great comfort in the familiar, that very strange and specific Subway smell that eludes me every time I walk past a Subway store; the chemical consistency and delightful combination of red, yellow and orange Skittles. In a strange way, our reliance on and enjoyment of mass-produced commercial food unites us. I want to throttle the younger me who, when visiting Paris for the first time on a high school trip, gleefully patronized Planet Hollywood with my friend Jared; and yet Jared and I weren’t alone. We were surrounded by other American tourists, happier to nosh on Kaptain Krunch coated chicken nuggets than an authentic crepe or pot-au-feu.

Sure, sure, go ahead–leave your nasty comments, I agree, the younger me was pretty lame–but I think it speaks to the power of the familiar. For many people, the power of the familiar trumps the power of the new. In fact, our love of things familiar affects not just what we eat, but often who we’re friends with, the movies we go to see and very often who we vote for. And tonight the power of the familiar sent me out of my apartment in a t-shirt and flip-flops, armed only with my wallet and my iPhone (which took the pictures you see, posted directly on to Flickr with the new application Airme), to purchase that old familiar comfort food: a box of Honeycomb. I’m not proud of it, but there it is. I think I’ll go have another bowl.

26 comments

  1. Just finished my first Pollan book, but I’ll still be breaking out the Kraft Mac & Cheese from time to time. Maybe I’ll stir in some locally grown minced red peppers and some organic acorn-raised prosciutto to make me feel better about it.

  2. While I hate honeycomb (or sugary cereal for that matter) I do admit to living in New Zealand for a year, and insisting that my mother mail me boxes of cheerios cereal and kraft dinner mac and cheese.

    While I think it’s now been 6+ months since I’ve eaten KD and over a year for Cheerios, being back in Australia and knowing I cannot have these things makes me want them all the more.

    Sure they’re junk, no I don’t eat them 24/7 but it’s more the childhood memories attached to eating these foods that I love.

  3. Cheerios are junk? Kraft mac and cheese, sure (well, anything Kraft for that matter), but I wouldn’t put Cheerios in the same category.

  4. I think being stressed increases your need/craving for the familiar. I’m studying for the bar exam and have found myself with a box of Pop Tarts in my basket at the associated the past few weeks. I haven’t had Pop Tarts since the third grade. And I would argue their concealed innards and fake frosting are a little bit higher on the unhealthy scale than Honeycomb. But dammit, I forgot how good a toasty Pop Tart, slightly burned, could be. And, in case you were wondering, bar exam study calories don’t count. Fact.

  5. I understand the need, only for me it’s peanut butter Cap’n Crunch.

    And yes, I agree. Looking at your mate’s tummy while commenting on food choices is definitely domestic abuse!

    Come to Aunti Cali, sweetie.

    *Stretches arms toward you, hugs you and pats your back*

  6. This post is ironically well timed. I was thinking about this and discussing it with my best friend just yesterday. We were talking about the Chinese takeout place that delivered to our old apartment and reminiscing about the awesomeness of the food. No other place compares, yet it was the grossest thing. I cannot eat any form of crab rangoon without thinking of her and our carpet picnics.

  7. You know what, as much of a foodie as I am, there’s something comforting about the chemical based concoctions that only American culture can provide: Twinkies, Fuzzy Peaches, Theater popcorn, etc. You need not feel bad about it, simply embrace the face that although you have risen above the likes of fast-food, calorie compounded eaters you are still a product of an environment in which mass produced food is not only readily available at 7-11 it’s also (sometimes) tantalizingly delicious.

    Also, try not to feel bad. My family and I went to the exact same Planet Hollywood in Paris (I’m guessing there’s only one, since to have 2 in the city of Paris would be a travesty) because after a few days of all the rich delectable French food we could eat… sometimes you need a mass produced Cobb Salad with generic ranch dressing on the side, no?

    Cheers

    P.S You do realize that next time Craig crams some synthetic sugary product in his mouth you have the license to shake your head in disgust, right?

  8. Adam, how could you do this to me? I used to mainline Honeycomb straight out of the box, too, and now I am CRAVING it. I guess we never really overcome our addictions, we just learn to control them…

  9. My cereal vice is Honey Smacks, the cereal with the cartoon frog named Dig ‘Em on the box. I used to eat it all the time as a kid. I think I’m going to go buy some now.

  10. Power of the familiar- on a trip to Argentina for a wedding I witnessed five children ages 4-15 bypass three kinds of CAKE for dry toast at the breakfast bar every morning for a week. Toast was familiar, cake for breakfast was not.

  11. There is a draw for the familiar. When I lived in Argentina, I had a coworker bring me Jif peanut butter back when she went on a business trip. I *craved* it. Peanut butter was very hard to find since it wasn’t something kids are brought up on there. And while I don’t eat peanut butter very often and tend to buy the all natural organic versions here, when I was in Buenos Aires I wanted the stuff my mom made my sandwiches from when I was five.

    My parents both live in Australia now, and when either one comes to visit they have lists of foods they want to eat. Top of the list for my dad? Golden Grahams cereal. Top of the list for my mom? Cream of Wheat. And they BOTH crave the dip made from Velveeta cheese melted with a can of Rotel because nothing melts like processed cheese. My dad will eat at Subway for lunch down there just so he can have a sandwich made with mayo that tastes like American mayo instead of the Aussie version that tastes more like Miracle Whip. And the list of things I’ve sent them over the years would strike most people outside the US as very very odd, but here they’d be considered staples or basics.

    The draw of the familiar and comforting is very very powerful. Do not deny it.

  12. I worked at a wedding recently where we catered fantastic food. I was passing some appetizers outside when I noticed some adults standing in a group and eating from a super size bag of Cheetos. I asked if they wanted something better but they gave me a handful of Cheetos instead. Oh well.

  13. It’s strange, but I have had the reverse problem far more often. Take some almost-forgotten comfort/crap food that I used to devour – say Milka Chocolate. If I haven’t had it in a few years, it’s almost guaranteed that I will hate it when I try it again. Maybe I’ve internalized too much of current food politics, but all I can taste is chemicals and far too much sugar. This is good for my waistline, I know, but sometime I really want to generate that same comfort I once had, and I always fail. Then, because I am brilliant, I will eat too much of it and at least generate an overly satiated food coma that feels good for about half a second before the nausea sets in.

    Woot!

  14. There’s no shame or embarrassment about your Honeycombs craving, Adam. I think we all have something like that in our brains somewhere. Partly it’s comfort, partly I think it’s just letting loose and being a kid and having whatever the heck you want. I used to be that way about Little Debbie Nutty Bars. And Golden Grahams cereal. And I am heavily anti-processed food, but hey, like I said, we all have that kind of thing. :)

  15. Sounds like perhaps you are not telling the whole story. Like, what were you smoking? I mean, I haven’t eaten cereal in years and this reminds me of the countless boxes of peanut butter captain crunch and corn pops I used to eat. But yuck, I am not so nostalgic that I actually want to go eat any.

  16. Oh man, I totally know what you mean. We’ve been living in Australia for more than 3 years and I still have my mother ship me boxes of Jiffy cornbread mix and proper Twizzlers. There are just days where you need that taste of the good old days, even if it’s found in a cardboard box. You’ll get no judgements from me!

  17. i have an american friend, a very distinguished film critic, who lives in paris, right in the latin quarter. she and her husband invited me over for dinner, and they served me frozen fish fingers and tater tots. in PARIS!!!! they have to go way out of their way to be able to buy them, because believe me, french people do not eat tater tots!!! whenever i go to paris, i always ask what i can bring her, and the answer is always hershey bars.

    i don’t get it, but whatever.

  18. No worries Adam, we all have our guilty pleasures. The other night I made a late night run for Peter Pan Peanut Butter and Fluff and fought my conscience through an entire Fluffernutter. In the end though I have to say it was nothing short of glorious. Sometimes its best to just not fight the urge.

  19. There is NO shame in Honeycomb!

    COME TO THE HONEYCOMB HIDEOUT!!!

    (that’s the creepy commercial line I remember from Saturday morning cartoons. It starred some wrestler or biker or some big scary guy who should NOT have been allowed to host little kids at his hideout.”

  20. Props to MissBHavens for remembering the Honeycomb Hideout. :)

    I’ve not eaten Honeycomb for a long time (special diet for my health – I *might* could eat the box, but probably not ’cause of the ink…), but my wife, see, my wife eats sugar cereals. And pretty much nothing else for breakfast. Oh, sure, toast or bagels now and then, but she’s a pretty plain sugary jane when it comes to breakfast.

    However – and here’s where I need your confirmation, Adam – She won’t eat Honeycomb anymore because she says they changed the taste. She says it tastes different recently than it always has, and she can’t stand it.

    Did you notice a change in flavor of your Honeycomb? Try some and think back in your mind’s eye (mind’s mouth?) to how it used to taste – is it the same?

    If so, I wonder if it’s a regional thing….

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